Spanish trio seek place in UEFA Cup final

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Espanyol has an unconfirmed reservation for UEFA Cup final. Tickets for fellow Spanish clubs Sevilla or Osasuna are far less predictable.

Updated: May 03, 2007 17:56 IST
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Madrid, Spain:

Espanyol has an unconfirmed reservation for UEFA Cup final. Tickets for fellow Spanish clubs Sevilla or Osasuna are far less predictable.

Espanyol will start with a 3-0 lead when it travels to Werder Bremen in Thursday's second-leg of their semifinal, while defending champion Sevilla trails Osasuna 1-0 when it hosts their second leg.

However, Espanyol has good reason to guard against complacency.

Once before the Barcelona-based team held a three-goal, first-leg lead against German club in the UEFA Cup, against Bayer Leverkusen in 1988 - when it lost the final.

Leverkusen rallied to win its home leg 3-0 and claimed the trophy on penalty kicks.

"It's true that on past history we have to be cautious about this result against a German team. In the return leg we're going to suffer a lot and we have to hope a German team doesn't overcome a 3-0 result," said Espanyol coach Ernesto Valverde, who played in the first leg of the final of 19 years ago.

Espanyol's passage would ensure that Spain has two clubs in the UEFA Cup final for the first time, although the country did supply both finalists three times in the 1960s under the tournament's previous name of the Inter-City Fairs Cup.

The final will be played at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 16.

Espanyol, which has scored a tournament-leading 30 goals this season, will welcome back striker Luis Garcia from suspension.

Garcia will replace Walter Pandiani, the competition's leading scorer with 11 goals this season who is suspended along with fellow first-leg goal scorer Moises Hurtado.

Espanyol's creative midfielder Ivan De La Pena will be sidelined with a calf injury, while Jonatas Domingos is very doubtful due to a bruised leg.

Bremen, hoping to reach its second European final, appears beset by problems.

Thomas Schaaf's team followed its defeat in Barcelona by missing an opportunity to take the Bundesliga lead, losing 3-2 at Arminia Bielefeld last weekend and falling to third place.

"Some of the players cannot handle the pressure and the heavy load," Bremen general manager Klaus Allofs said. "We are not going to achieve our lofty goals in this way. We have to see which players are not up to the task."

In addition, it has been revealed that striker Miroslav Klose has annoyed his club by holding transfer talks with Bayern Munich.

Goalkeeper Tim Wiese will miss Thursday's game because of suspension due to his first-leg ejection, together with defender Clemens Fritz.

Sevilla in contention

Still in contention for three trophies, Sevilla could be heading for the greatest season in its history.

Ramos' side trails Spanish league leader FC Barcelona by one point with six games remaining. It is also virtually guaranteed an appearance in the Copa del Rey final, leading Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 entering the second leg of the semifinals.

A second straight UEFA Cup triumph would match the achievement by Real Madrid in 1985-86.

"We're not thinking of the final. The important thing is to overcome Osasuna, which is a really tough opponent as it showed last week," Sevilla coach Juande Ramos said.

Sevilla defender Ivica Dragutinovic is doubtful due to illness.

Seeking a place in its first European final, Osasuna will face a hostile reception at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.

"Having the crowd against you lifts you. This type of game is the dream of any player," goalkeeper Ricardo Lopez told his club's Web site. "We'll go on the attack, and when we have to defend, we'll do so with tooth and nail."

Osasuna's goal scorer from the first leg, striker Roberto Soldado, will miss the match because of suspension.

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